“The Jim Gaffigan Show” will hit TV Land this summer — but the famously food-loving comedian Jim Gaffigan posted an episode of the sitcom on his site ahead of the premiere. Between shooting scenes for the show and enjoying a Philly cheesesteak for lunch, Gaffigan explained his decision to Variety, and vowed he’ll never go back to network TV.
Why did you decide to release an episode of your show on your site months before it will debut on TV Land?
The Internet is such an important tool in my standup career, in just connecting to people who can come to the shows. Letting people know that I’m performing at Madison Square Garden, you can either rely on the wire postings, or you can post it on Twitter, and at some point you develop a relationship with people that follow you on Twitter or like you on Facebook. Why I wanted to post it to my website two months before it airs on TV Land is because TV Land … I’m not sure what channel it is on my dial.
The show had been developed for CBS, then got picked up by TV Land. Did that change anything for you?
(My wife) Jeannie (Noth) and I wanted to a do a show that we would watch. And you can tell people — or you can show people. It’s on TV Land. It used to be on CBS. I understand that there’s an expectation surrounding a standup comedian who has five kids that’s doing a TV show. There’s all this baggage. Jeannie and I really came to the conclusion that the only way to get over that is to show people. And we do have the confidence in this episode that it will show people that this is not the show they might think it would be.
We’re not going to have the budget to launch a “Black-ish.” We’re on a small network. We’re not on one of the big networks. I know of shows that are great, but they don’t get viewership because people don’t sample it. My motivation was that I want people to be able to sample this. I don’t care what network it is, as long as people can try the show. I’m confident in the content.
The website thing is, I’ve been doing things on the Internet, I’m selling the special on my website, I promote tours and sell tickets through my website. Jeannie kind of describes going to TV Land as “punk rock.” Which sounds kind of funny, right? We needed to do what we wanted to do. Through many years of developing this show and seeing how things can be done from a bureaucratic standpoint, and it really just comes down to me and Jeannie.
Because of this opportunity, I don’t think I can go back. I can’t go back to a network like CBS or deal with a studio like Sony. I could never. It’s over.
Was TV Land supportive when you told them you wanted to put the episode on your site?
(TV Land exec VP of development and original programming) Keith Cox was very supportive of it. It is rather unconventional. I’m 48; I’ve been at this for a while. Now I’m like, “I don’t care if you think I’m crazy.” I presented it to Keith, Keith heard me out, and he said, “OK. Let’s go.” He was not frightened of it. We’re entering an age in television where the whole backend syndication model is kind of being recalibrated. What they’re trying to do at TV Land is, they’re not playing that short game. It’s a long game.
What’s happening with comedy on TV right now?
We live in this golden age of dramas. There’s no reason why there can’t be great comedies. I went through two rounds of a pilot at CBS. For two years, we were the golden boys. That’s what CBS was telling me for two years. And before that NBC told me that. Now Jeannie and I are just saying it to each other. The way we constructed this, it’s not constructed on bureaucracy. There’s no writers’ room. Jeannie and I wrote all the scripts. We edit the episodes. We do it all ourselves. If you want it done the way you want, you kind of have to do it that way.
Do you draw inspiration from any comedian-driven sitcoms?
I would say there’s something about Bob Newhart. I grew up watching reruns of Dick Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore, Carol Burnett. It’s not awkward pause comedy, where it’s like, “Look at this guy.” And it’s not so cynical that it doesn’t try to be funny. And that’s why I put it on the website. Because rather than me describing it, I want people to draw their own conclusions. I think standup comedy is one of the only forms of the entertainment industry that’s a meritocracy. You either go up there and you do the job — or not. That’s why I want the Internet to put it out there. You guys decide.